Hidden expenses

Nick Robinson’s post yesterday afternoon on the continuing saga of MPs’ expenses mentioned that the Commons’ authorities had a change of mind following further legal advice. He had more to say later on the BBC Ten O’clock News. Although Nick Robinson’s report is not on the BBC website (but see Bid to block expenses questioned for the full story), probably as it delivered live to camera, he said that whereas it was unlikely that any MP would be found to have broken the law, some might feel they had no option but to go (whether at the next General Election or sooner he did not make clear) because they would be so embarrassed at the revelations about what they had spent our money on. Nick Robinson said he had been told this by a number of senior politicians.

Going back to the legal grounds for the appeal, these, according to Nick Robinson, are the security of MPs and their legitimate expectation that their information be kept secret. I rather like David Winnick’s comments at PMQs (which prompted the Speaker to intervene). According to the BBC, Winnick said if (the appeal) was just about publishing addresses “that would be perfectly understandable on grounds of security”, but if it was against the wider issue of publishing second home expenses, “it should be noted that some members, certainly myself, are very much opposed to the appeal being lodged”. He went on to say it was “unfortunate” MPs had not been given a vote on the matter. At this stage the Speaker intervened, saying the matter was sub judice (undoubtedly correct but why do I get the feeling that he was pleased about this?).

Core Labour values

A very good post on Martin Bright’s New Statesman’s blog which looks beyond what he calls the Michael Martin affair, and suggests that

“the real question for younger Labour MPs is how they define themselves against the other parties without reverting to the old politics of class identity. Oddly, this may mean a return to certain core Labour values: an abhorrence of poverty, social injustice and inequality. Some Labour MPs are worried that young people joining the party are more interested in civil liberties and global warming than in the millions of people still living in poverty in Britain today. Yet it is for those who still believe that Labour has a duty to the poorest in society to offer a persuasive argument that the party can and should make a difference, rather than simply manage the status quo better than the Tories.

If Labour backbenchers are looking for a cause more worthy than the Speaker of the House of Commons, they could do worse than commit themselves to honouring pledges to end poverty in Britain. Blair and Brown proved they could do what was once unimaginable: run a successful economy and increase investment in public services while winning over swaths of middle-class voters. What the Conservative Party has yet to prove, despite the rhetoric, is that its frontbenchers, most of whom do not have a single member of their extended families who has known a day of economic hardship, really care about those who have.”